Bitfinex is one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges still standing. Founded in 2012, which in crypto terms is almost ancient history, the exchange has faced many obstacles during the course of the industry’s rocky ride, yet it remains one of the top trading platforms to this day.
Paolo Ardoino has been the exchange’s CTO for over three years, helping its technology scale to keep up with the growing demand of the cryptocurrency space.
When the exchange began life in 2012, the price of bitcoin wasn’t even at $100, and liquidity was minuscule compared to what Bitfinex sees today. Now that bitcoin is comfortably trading at four and five figure prices, and institutional investors are becoming more interested in the space, its team is facing new challenges and opportunities.
CryptoGlobe sat down with Paolo to talk about their culture of innovation, the mood at the company when faced with several high-profile lawsuits, what the exchange is working on and what the future holds for Bitfinex.
As one of the older exchanges, Bitfinex has had to constantly innovate and launch new products to keep pace with the rapidly evolving market. In keeping with this innovation-based approach, Ardoino revealed to CryptoGlobe that Bitifnex will be launching two themed investment baskets that allow the user to buy a group of digital assets in a single product.
The CTO explained that he wants them to be a “little bit of a surprise,” but detailed that one basket will give investors exposure to smart contract tokens, presumably including leading tokens Ethereum, EOS, Tron and Cardano.
Per Ardoino, the crypto basket will be equally weighted and updated “every second.” Discussing the other basket, Ardoino was more guarded, remarking that he doesn’t want to spoil it, but promising that it will be “something purely dedicated to Bitcoin.”
Low-Latency and Lending
The tirade of negative attention and lawsuits that Bitfinex and its parent company iFinex have faced seem not to have dented the CTO’s optimistic outlook.
One area he stressed the exchange is very much on terra firma is High-Frequency Trading (HFT). Ardoinio stressed that the Bitfinex team’s traditional finance pedigree means they are very much at home when it comes to this competitive arena.
So much so that the exchange has a “lot of the big HFT firms working in traditional finance getting collocated with us.” He added these firms have already rented rack space, and are “more than happy with the latency.” This latency, thanks to various technical improvements, is going to be lower than ever at Bitfinex, he claimed.
Ardoino also noted that Bitfinex from the outset offered a lending feature, something other exchanges are only now implementing on their platforms. Leading exchange Binance for example, only added lending in August of this year, with flexible deposits arriving late last month.
These features allow users to lend funds to margin traders and receive interest on these loans. Traders use the funds to open a position to buy or sell a cryptoasset, and when they close their position, the funds are paid back to the lender, with added interest.
Seven years on, Bitfinex still gives its traders these options and is expanding them through a partnership with lending firm Celsius, which lets users earn on their crypto holdings. Ardoino also stressed that Bitfinex is the most liquid platform for margin trading.
Overall, Ardoino was keen to make it clear that Bitfinex is firmly focused on the future.
Bitfinex’s Company Culture
Ardoino revealed that after the much-publicised lawsuit from the New York Attorney General which accused the exchange of involvement in a $850 million ‘cover-up’, none of its employees left the company, but instead understood it “unjustly got hate”, with employees keen to move beyond the drama and focus on improving the product.
The lawsuit saw NYAG Letitia James allege that Bitfinex had lost the funds because of a third-party payment processor, and that the exchange had used Tether and its USDt stablecoin to cover up the loss. Bitfinex and Tether contested the “meritless and mercenary lawsuit.” Ardoino remarked:
We want to show that we can be even greater and do even greater things.
He noted that as the case is ongoing there’s a lot the company must avoid talking about, but made it clear Bitfinex’s morale stayed up as its team kept focusing on improving.
Ardoino added that one of the best things you can see in a team is that “whatever happens, even if they hit you very hard, no one will let you down.” Per his words, Bitfinex built this type of team thanks to its “great company culture.” In part, openness was at the center of its team-building strategy.
He also noted that the exchange’s team is rather small when compared to those of other exchanges. Currently, it has 130 employees, after more than doubling from 60 in 2017. Binance for comparison, reportedly has over 500.
Ardoino insisted that Bitfinex only hires “the best” and that employees don’t leave “because it’s the best place to work” and can create projects with freedom.
The exchange appears to be ready for new challenges, as its team’s morale is seemingly undented. And the figures seem to back that up: Bitfinex is still among the top exchanges by trading volume, as roughly $150 million change hands through its platform on a daily basis.